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RUN, ROSE, RUN

The fairy-tale characters and details of the country-music scene are so much fun you won't mind the silly plot.

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A singer/songwriter at the beginning of her career is befriended by a retired country-music luminary, but will the young woman's past destroy her before her star can ascend?

"Underneath that sweet, doll-faced exterior, there was something fierce and furious about AnnieLee Keyes. Some dark pain powered those pipes; Ruthanna was sure of it." Like Bill Clinton before her, Parton has hooked up with Patterson to channel the details of her profession into a thriller framework—and in this case, to provide an album of songs purportedly written by the three main characters to be released at the same time. When we meet AnnieLee, she is on the run, hitchhiking to Nashville to escape some mysterious nightmare situation. Standing in the rain, she starts singing to herself: "Is it easy / No it ain't / Can I fix it? / No I cain't." This will become "Woman Up (and Take It Like a Man)," one of the songs she debuts in a roadside dive called the Cat's Paw, begging a place on the stage and playing a borrowed guitar before slinking off to sleep in a public park. But she has already been noticed by Ethan Blake, a handsome Afghanistan veteran–turned–Nashville session player and secret songwriter—"Demons, demons, we've both had enough of our own / Demons, demons, we don't have to fight them alone." He will take word of this tiny, skittish prodigy to his boss, the beloved Ruthanna Ryder, who has stepped back from a mega-career after personal tragedy—and who happens to own the Cat's Paw. Ruthanna, who recalls the great Parton in coiffure, jewelry, generosity, and business know-how, sees her former self in AnnieLee—"Big dreams and faded jeans / Fit together like a team"—and immediately goes to work to help her climb the slippery ladder of stardom. But between AnnieLee's durn pride and the vicious, violent marauders who are on her tail, it won't be easy. Good thing Patterson was there to give Ethan those military superhero moves. Showdown in Vegas, y'all!

The fairy-tale characters and details of the country-music scene are so much fun you won't mind the silly plot.

Pub Date: March 7, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5434-4

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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DEVOLUTION

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z(2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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THE HOUSE ACROSS THE LAKE

A weird, wild ride.

Celebrity scandal and a haunted lake drive the narrative in this bestselling author’s latest serving of subtly ironic suspense.

Sager’s debut, Final Girls (2017), was fun and beautifully crafted. His most recent novels—Home Before Dark (2020) and Survive the Night (2021) —have been fun and a bit rickety. His new novel fits that mold. Narrator Casey Fletcher grew up watching her mother dazzle audiences, and then she became an actor herself. While she never achieves the “America’s sweetheart” status her mother enjoyed, Casey makes a career out of bit parts in movies and on TV and meatier parts onstage. Then the death of her husband sends her into an alcoholic spiral that ends with her getting fired from a Broadway play. When paparazzi document her substance abuse, her mother exiles her to the family retreat in Vermont. Casey has a dry, droll perspective that persists until circumstances overwhelm her, and if you’re getting a Carrie Fisher vibe from Casey Fletcher, that is almost certainly not an accident. Once in Vermont, she passes the time drinking bourbon and watching the former supermodel and the tech mogul who live across the lake through a pair of binoculars. Casey befriends Katherine Royce after rescuing her when she almost drowns and soon concludes that all is not well in Katherine and Tom’s marriage. Then Katherine disappears….It would be unfair to say too much about what happens next, but creepy coincidences start piling up, and eventually, Casey has to face the possibility that maybe some of the eerie legends about Lake Greene might have some truth to them. Sager certainly delivers a lot of twists, and he ventures into what is, for him, new territory. Are there some things that don’t quite add up at the end? Maybe, but asking that question does nothing but spoil a highly entertaining read.

A weird, wild ride.

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-18319-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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